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What are my chances for CS @ T20s

ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
I need to know schools to look into that people think I have a shot at, and my chances for the ones at the bottom. Everyone's input helps, so please let me know!

Demographics: Male, Native American (not registered with a tribe) / African American

Income: Sub 55k, single parent (also I’m a military dependent).

Major: Computer Science, possibly minoring in math or physics

GPA: 3.94 UW, 4.475 W

Rank: Top 7% - 44 out of 600+

SAT: 1470

Subject Tests: Waiting for math 2 results. Expecting ~ 770

Course load: All honors every year with APs every year - only 1 B ever in sophomore year Honors Chem; everything else has been an A.

AP classes: 6 total (*'ed the ones I'm currently taking)

AP Computer Science A -- 4

AP Physics 1 -- 4

*AP Computer Science Principles

*AP Physics C E&M

*AP Physics C Mech.

* AP Calculus BC

* AP World History

ECs related to major:

Organized a Hack-a-thon for my local community. I was the head of logistics for the project (had 2 other people with me) which included working with companies to get sponsored (food, prizes, etc.), getting approval from MLH (Google them if you're unfamiliar), and any paperwork that popped up.

Won a Hack-a-thon for Website Design and integration of Google's cloud services.

Competed in three other college level coding competitions, falling 1 point behind 3rd each time.

ECs extra:

Have had a job for about the past year. (22-27 hours a week)

Volunteered at the same retirement home for 2 hours each Friday going on 5 years (~520 hours).

National Honors Society

Competed in 2 french competitions.

Treasurer of the investing club at my school.

Religious School w/ a $500 scholarship.

Essays: My commonapp essays is great according to the people who've read it. Still working on supplementals.

LoR: AP Computer Science A / CSP teacher (10/10) has known me for years, pushed me to do computer science, and I’m one of his favorite students. I’ve read it and it’s great. AP Physics 1 Teacher (9/10) She knows my work ethic very well as I spent a lot of my free periods at her class doing work, practicing, etc. Employer (9/10) They know my work ethic very well and offered to write one for me since they know I’m applying soon.

What I currently have: UPenn, Princeton, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Vanderbilt, RIT, Drexel, Pitt

Looking to see which T20s / anything people think I’m able to get into for CS, please recommend some schools!

Thanks for the help!
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Replies to: What are my chances for CS @ T20s

  • momprof9904momprof9904 403 replies3 threads Member
    @ljhhjl I assume you have not gone through the Questbridge program, correct? As an accomplished URM with a rigorous STEM curriculum, and a job, and good stats, I think you should start contacting your regional admissions reps for the top universities. This will put you on their radar, and they are there to help you with questions. But you need to reach out. The T20's are all reach schools, but you have a hook - use it!

    But first, you need to look at each university's web site and CS offerings to figure out your fit for these universities. Do you live close enough to visit any? If not, let the rep know this information.

    What is your home state? You will need a financial and academic safety. RIT and Drexel are academic safeties, but may not give enough $$ to be affordable.
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  • aquaptaquapt 2281 replies47 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Do you have a non-custodial parent? If so, most schools will require and consider their info as well, which can create a financial aid shortfall if they're not willing to contribute as the formula expects. Just asking because you don't want unpleasant surprises when it's too late to alter your application strategy.

    Also echoing the question about home state. GT and Pitt be affordable only if you're in-state. (Public universities that meet need for OOS students: UVA and UNC Chapel Hill, for all OOS students, and UMichigan for low-income OOS students. UMich could be worth considering for you, although it's no less of a reach than other elites for OOS.)

    CMU, Drexel, and RIT do not guarantee full-need-met aid. You'll have to wait and see whether they decide to be generous enough to be affordable for you.

    It doesn't sound as if you strictly need a school with engineering; you can study CS plus math/physics at many LAC's that are strong in these areas. As a URM male, you're a desirable applicant for many such school. Vassar in particular has strong STEM and a higher acceptance rate for guys than for women. Hamilton could be another one to look at. Grinnell has particularly generous financial aid. The Maine LAC's are all worth a look. (Colby/Bates/Bowdoin.) LAC's don't require you to apply to a specific major, so you won't face the extra competitiveness barrier that's present at schools where you have to apply directly to CS.

    Harvey Mudd is terrific for CS majors who also want depth in math and science. Tufts could be a good fit as well. (Both reaches but not single-digit reaches.) The Lehigh Valley schools, Lehigh U and Lafayette, both have excellent STEM and full-need-met aid, and are trying to improve their diversity - your URM hook will carry a lot of weight with them.

    Think about what kind of college experience you want to have and look for the combination of best-fit and best financial aid. Right now you have only four full-need-met schools on your list, all very reachy. You need some financial safeties, whether those are in-state publics or less-reachy privates that still meet full need. (St. Olaf, for example - excellent for math/CS/science, meets need, and has a >40% RD acceptance rate.) I think you're likely to score some offers from very competitive schools, but with your current list, there's more risk than I'd be comfortable with of ending up with nothing you can afford.

    There are lots and lots of great options - the relatively short time window to finalize your list will be the challenge!

    edited December 2019
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  • ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
    edited December 2019
    I'm in PA, so I'm in state for Pitt. Currently I'm leaning a lot more towards CS + Math compared to physics. I don't have a non-custodial parent, by a military dependent I meant as in I receive govt. benefits from a deceased veteran parent.

    My current list is: CMU, Cornell, Drexel, G. Tech, Lehigh, Penn State (accepted), Princeton, RIT, Swarthmore (not as interested, but fee waiver), University of Main (fee waiver), Penn, Pitt, Ursinus, and Vanderbilt.

    Do you still think there's too much risk in my list? I just included the ones that I wasn't as sure about in the post.

    Also, do you think I'd be a strong applicant for some of the more selective schools? I'd like to see if I can get into one of them, but seeing a lot of people with scores & achievements higher than mine worries me even though I have the URM hook.

    Forgot to add - for Penn I have a letter of recommendation from a Penn alumn. Does this help at all?
    edited December 2019
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  • ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
    Unfortunately, I didn't go through QuestBridge - I didn't even know it existed until more recently. I've visited RIT, Drexel, and Cornell, but none of the other schools (I'm able to visit Penn this week if it'll help at all, but I have been on campus & competed in some of their coding competitions). My home state is PA and I have been accepted into Penn State already, and hopefully will be to Pitt as well.
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  • aquaptaquapt 2281 replies47 threads Senior Member
    Ah, I see. Well, if Penn State and/or Pitt would be affordable (I know PA isn't the absolute most generous with aid - do the numbers look okay?), then you do have safeties.

    I don't see how GT or Maine can be affordable. (Maine has their Flagship Match but that still means you'd need to pay in-state costs minus Pell; you wouldn't get any state-level aid.) CMU, Drexel, RIT, and Ursinus - you'll have to wait and see what the FA packages look like. (Good chance of merit at the last three, but whether merit will cover the gap between your EFC and your need-based aid, time will tell.) Cornell, Penn, Princeton, Vandy, Swarthmore, and Lehigh will meet need (not sure if they're all no-loan) although the formulae may vary.

    Seems like you'd like to stay Mid-Atlantic, and that's a pretty good list for that region. Maybe add Lafayette as another full-need-met PA school with great STEM? (Perhaps F&M too?) Have you considered Johns Hopkins, which just received the largest private donation in history to further expand their already-generous financial aid? People think of Hopkins as a premed factory, but their CS, math, and physical sciences are excellent too. Case Western Reserve U in Cleveland isn't far from Pittsburgh, has great STEM, and meets full need - have you run the NPC there? If you'd go as far as Rochester for RIT, what about URochester which meets need? And I do think Vassar is worth a look too.

    Overall, if you can afford PSU/Pitt, then there's no need to apply anywhere that you wouldn't choose over those two. Shooting for the best-endowed reach schools that will give you a great aid package makes sense. I think the URM hook will help you a lot; I won't be surprised at all if you get at least one offer from a top-tier school. Fingers crossed for you!
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  • merc81merc81 10919 replies178 threads Senior Member
    Not interested in Swarthmore? Note that it's well-reputed for its academic rigor and often brilliant students. Are you looking for more of a direct, less theoretical approach to your education? Your own understanding of this will help you shape your list.
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  • ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
    GT & Maine are only on the list because I received fee waivers, so why not apply? Neither are at the top of my list. I'll make sure to look into Lafayette, URochester, and John Hopkins later today!

    When it comes to FAFSA, how much do you think it'd change due to the fact my mom is also in school currently. I didn't know if this was something worth including in the original post or not, or how much it actually affects things (it's been put down on the FAFSA & CSS profile either way).
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  • ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
    Mis-typed my original reply - I'm interested in it, just not as much as some of the other schools (UPenn and Cornell).

    Also, in terms theoretical vs direct, which programs would fit which category?
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  • merc81merc81 10919 replies178 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Schools such as Drexel and RIT may seem the most direct (versus theoretical) in their approaches. Nonetheless, schools such as CMU, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Princeton and Lehigh obviously include direct aspects in their curricula as well. In principle, a school like Swarthmore would represent an even more theoretical school overall, though its direct aspects in CS should suffice for any career goals. In terms of overlap between approaches, note that Hamilton, for example, sees benefits to competitive coding events for its CS students (https://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/comp-sci-department-hosts-college-computing-conference) while offering top-notch programs in some of the more theoretical aspects of CS, math and physics as well.
    edited December 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80092 replies719 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    deleted, did not see reply #3 yet
    edited December 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80092 replies719 threads Senior Member
    merc81 wrote: »
    Not interested in Swarthmore? Note that it's well-reputed for its academic rigor and often brilliant students.

    Swarthmore's CS department is overcrowded, so it is rationing CS courses for CS majors: https://www.swarthmore.edu/computer-science/2018-19-changes-to-cs-major

    But many other colleges also have overcrowded CS departments, and may handle that in different ways (not mutually exclusive):
    * CS may be a limited-access major, where frosh direct admission may be much more competitive than the school overall, and/or declaration of the CS major after enrolling as undeclared requires a high college GPA and/or competitive admission process.
    * CS class sizes may be very large to accommodate all of the students.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80092 replies719 threads Senior Member
    ljhhjl wrote: »
    My home state is PA and I have been accepted into Penn State already, and hopefully will be to Pitt as well.

    Is the net price of PSU and Pitt affordable (perhaps with use of the veteran dependent benefits) based on the financial aid offer from PSU (or net price calculator results if PSU has not given a financial aid offer yet)?

    If so, then you have a safety. If not, then you may have more searching to do.

    Note that PSU CS is a somewhat restricted major; you need a 3.0 GPA in college to enter the major: https://bulletins.psu.edu/undergraduate/colleges/engineering/computer-science-bs/#howtogetintext . However, this is not as high a barrier as at some other colleges.
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  • merc81merc81 10919 replies178 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    This New York Times article also discusses challenges encountered by CS students at Swarthmore and other colleges:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/technology/computer-science-courses-college.html

    As noted in the link in reply #11, however, Swarthmore has plans to meliorate some of these concerns in the near future.
    edited December 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80092 replies719 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    ljhhjl wrote: »
    Mis-typed my original reply - I'm interested in it, just not as much as some of the other schools (UPenn and Cornell).

    Also, in terms theoretical vs direct, which programs would fit which category?

    Any good CS department's courses should have both theoretical foundations and practice in implementing them (through programming assignments and projects). Note that most CS courses (the ones with programming assignments and projects) should be considered high workload courses, so it may be a good idea to spread them throughout your eight semesters to balance the workload. A few CS courses that are just theory will be like math courses in terms of workload.

    But note that some smaller CS departments have relatively limited offerings, or each upper level course may be offered only once every two years (i.e. you may have just one chance to take it, which could be a problem if it has a time conflict with some other course you want to take). You may want to look at catalogs and schedules of colleges of interest to see what they offer.
    edited December 2019
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  • merc81merc81 10919 replies178 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Seconding @aquapt's recommendations of JHU and URochester.

    Another aspect to consider, @ljhhjl, is how broadly would you like to study? For example, if you imagine yourself exploring topics in diverse fields such as classical studies, philosophy, religious studies, government, literature, history, geosciences and astronomy, then you may arrive at a different set of college choices than if your interests align more uniformly with applied areas of CS, math and physics.
    edited December 2019
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  • GoBears2023GoBears2023 745 replies9 threadsForum Champion Summer Programs Forum Champion
    I think you have a pretty good shot at the t20s. My number one advice for you is to REGISTER with a tribe. I am registered with my tribe and it really does help with admissions. In addition, it provides solid proof that you are not lying about your ethnicity and what not (unfortunately, people claim to be native american / tribal when they shouldn't)
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80092 replies719 threads Senior Member
    merc81 wrote: »
    Another aspect to consider, @ljhhjl, is how broadly would you like to study? For example, if you imagine yourself exploring topics in diverse fields such as classical studies, philosophy, religious studies, government, literature, history, geosciences and astronomy, then you may arrive at a different set of college choices than if your interests align more uniformly with applied areas of CS, math and physics.

    Students who want to study more broadly want to consider:

    * Availability of those other subjects to study.
    * How extensive the non-CS course requirements in the CS major are. Fewer non-CS course requirements could allow for more schedule space for other courses. Engineering-based CS majors tend to have more non-CS course requirements like additional science and math courses beyond the math normally needed for CS (calculus, discrete math, linear algebra, and math-like CS theory).
    * How extensive/restrictive the general education requirements are at the school, to the extent that they do not overlap with those other areas you want to study.
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  • aquaptaquapt 2281 replies47 threads Senior Member
    If you particularly like co-op programs like Drexel, which are also an option at RIT and Pitt, you might apply to Northeastern - their CS co-op program is outstanding, they meet full need, and it's an easy application (no additional writing supplement). They have many options for CS+X combined degrees, including CS+math and CS+physics, if that appeals. (Seems like you're not really considering Boston schools generally, but Northeastern is *the* full-need-met co-op school.)

    Are you requesting fee waivers through the common app? You should be able to get more than just the ones that are spontaneously offered. https://www.commonapp.org/static/132272b4b32fcd846abaa8e967d3ba9a-24d0e68aaf38058a8ba9b3a00283c681.pdf

    Sounds like you should be eligible for this? https://www.legion.org/scholarships/legacy Outside scholarship money could bridge the gap at your schools that don't necessarily meet full need.

    Are you running the actual Net Price Calculators for all of your schools, to see what they project your costs to be? There should be an NPC link on every financial aid website. For example, https://pitt.studentaidcalculator.com/survey.aspx I don't know the answer to your question about your mom's student status, but if you haven't run NPC's, start there. The results may help you to narrow down your list before you submit apps.
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  • merc81merc81 10919 replies178 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    This site can be especially convenient for estimating costs at certain, generally top-level, schools: https://myintuition.org/.
    edited December 2019
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  • ljhhjlljhhjl 7 replies3 threads New Member
    edited December 2019
    The tribe I'd have to register with most likely isn't government recognized, so I'm not sure if it would even help. @GoBears2023
    edited December 2019
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